Some thoughts on Black History Month.

If you’re going to devote an entire month to appreciating the history of a color, it might as well be the color black.


Black holes.

These rascals have galaxies for lunch. A humongous one is sucking in the Milky Way even as we speak, and one of these days it’ll get what’s left of you and me and Happy Caldwell whether he thinks it will or not.


Déjà vu for Jonah.

Blackberry cobbler.


Blackberry cobbler is one of the nine best things to eat on the planet earth. There are only two qualifiers: one is that the person who prepares it must have prepared at least a thousand blackberry cobblers previously — you can only get it absolutely right by working your way up to perfection slowly; and two, you have to use blackberries that are really berries and not telephones.

Black sheep of the family.

Uncle Al.

Black hole of Calcutta.


Where 90 percent of your calls for tech support are routed.

Black widow.

There’s a human and an arachnid version of this critter, and about the only difference is that one has a red hourglass tattoo to remind you that your time’s running out.

Just black.

No cream, no sugar. How manly men take their coffee.


We don’t have many of these any more, or bootblacks, either. Our best-known blacksmith was named Black, incidentally — James Black, who made the first Bowie knife, or Arkansas Toothpick. So many people were killed by Bowie knives that a national knife-control movement proposed to register Bowie knife owners, do background checks on them, and finally to confiscate the blame things. These efforts were thwarted by the National Bowie Knife Association, which used the slogan “Bowie knives don’t kill people; people kill people.” The lingering influence of the NBKA and its slogan was said to be a factor in O. J. Simpson getting off.

Any discussion of blacksmiths reminds me of Minnie Pearl’s story about her brother E. Bob, who didn’t know jack about jack but was always acting like he knew everything about everything. One day E. Bob was showing off for a group touring a Grinders Switch barn where a blacksmith had just been working. E. Bob was sorting through a bin of horseshoes, expounding on the differences in them, and he happened to grab holt of one still hot from the forge. He flang it down quickly and noisily, and stifled his yelps and yowls. “What’s the matter, E. Bob?” Minnie said to him, feigning concern. “Burn your hand?” To which E. Bob replied, ever in character, “Aw, naw, hit just don’t take me long to look at a horseshoe.”

Black eye.

Ignorant legislators give the state one.

Popping Blackie’s tail.

We once had a cat named Blackie, an otherwise ordinary cat, very dignified, but he liked you to pick him up by the tail and jiggle him in midair, causing the cartilage in his tail and back to snap, crackle and pop. Coach used to do something similar to his footballers, grabbing them up in a big bear hug and jiggling them up and down while their vertebrae popped. Felt really good. Strange animals — people and cats. Odd behavioral similarities.

In the black.

This expression goes back to the days of ledger bookkeeping when you wrote your assets in black ink and your debts in red. So if your bottom line was black, you could pay the light bill, or red, you might orta go see that unctuous squire with the reset button. I’ve been in the black a few times and it’s better than being in the red, although billionaires and their lackey politicians won’t rest until they’ve siphoned all our little black piles over into their giant black piles, until they have it all and we have what the little boy shot at. Greed. How much is enough?


An insurance salesman named Wallace Stevens wrote the famous poem “Thirteen Ways of Looking at a Blackbird.” He didn’t say there were only 13 ways of looking at a blackbird; he just picked his favorite 13 and then moved on to another topic. Or maybe he had to quit after 13 and go write up a new insurance policy for one of his policyholders. Anyway I know of at least four-and-twenty ways of looking at a blackbird, and one of those 24 is to spy on the big roost of them in the oak grove just down the street here during my morning constitutional. Not only spying but eavesdropping on them the other morning:

First blackbird: Boy, there sure are a lot of dead us on the ground down there. I wonder what happened.

Second blackbird: I sure am hungry. Let’s get this show on the road.

Third blackbird: I’m starving.

Fourth blackbird: Bro. Pat Robertson says all them dead us down there are a sign from God.

First blackbird: A sign of what?

Fourth blackbird: God hates gays.

First blackbird: What are gays?

Second blackbird: C’mon guys, I’ve gotta eat.

Third blackbird: Me too.

Fourth blackbird: Me three.

First blackbird: Me four.

And off they flew, a vast famished cloud of them. Except the dead ones that God killed because he hates whatever gays are. And abortion.